How the Intellectual Property Act 2014 changes British Registered Design Law

by Jane Lambert
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On 14 May 2014 the Intellectual Property Bill 2014 finally received royal assent and became law. The statute makes changes to British patent, registered design and unregistered design right law. This article discusses the changes that have been made to registered design law.

Designs that are "new" and have "individual character" can be registered with the UK Intellectual Property Office ("the IPO") under the Registered Designs Act 1949 or the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) ("OHIM") under the Community Design Regulation. Registration of the design either at the IPO or OHIM gives the registered proprietor a monopoly of the design. Although it is possible for designs that are functional to be registered as registered or registered Community designs design registration generally protects ornamental as opposed to functional designs.

In his review of intellectual property and growth Prof, Hargreaves noted that the role of IP in supporting the design industry had been neglected. He recommended an evidence based assessment of the relationship between design rights and innovation to be undertaken by the IPO with a view to making policy. The IPO acted upon his recommendation and called for evidence to which 22 responded. Most of those respondents complained of the complexity of the law and the cost of enforcement. Acting upon those responses the IPO proposed simplifying appeals from the Designs Registry, extending the opinions service to designs and a new offence of intentionally copying a registered design. Following further consultation these proposals found their way into the Intellectual Bill which was introduced into the House of Lords on 10 May 2013.

This article considers all the changes to British registered designs law that have been made by the Act. Probably the most important changes are the streamlining of the appeals from the Registry by abolishing the Registered Designs Appeals Tribunal and replacing it with appeals to an Appointed Person or the Court. Also important is the extension of the opinions service which was introduced into the Patents Act 1977 some 10 years ago to designs cases and UK accession to the Hague Agreement.

The most controversial provision was the creation of a new offence of intentionally copying or otherwise dealing with copies of registered designs. That provision is analysed in detail.

The last paragraph discusses the consequences for practitioners. It is likely that there will be more challenges to design registrations partly because it is cheaper and easier to appeal but also to avert any possible criminal proceedings that might arise. Accession to Hague may result in more applications from overseas and perhaps in time more from the UK.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Jane Lambert, NIPC | Attorney Advertising

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